SRFireside | Houston, TX United States | 04/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What you're essentially getting here is all nine episodes of The Storyteller series AND all four episodes from The Storyteller: Greek Myths on a two DVD set. Considering they stopped shipping the previous Storyteller and Greek Myths DVD's this will be what you will be seeing in stores. The good news is the MSRP on this collection is actually less than the release price of the original Storyteller collection and about the same price of the release of Greek Myths disk. You'll be getting the best deal ever offered with this collection.
If you don't currently have both collections I recommend getting this. Even if you have one of the two collections the price point makes it worthwhile (sell your old set and save even more). Obviously if you have neither DVD this is the perfect opportunity to pick up some of the best family entertainment out there."
Michael S. Goldfarb | Verplanck, NY United States | 06/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had only seen some of these when they first aired as part of "The Jim Henson Hour", but I was totally enchanted by them, and am thrilled to have them now in their entirety, to revel in and share with my own kids.
What I really like about them - besides the stories themselves, the wonderful set, costume, and puppet designs, the acting and so on - is that they resurrect the importance of *telling*. There is a love of language in Minghella's scripts ("a princess of sweetness and cherry pie", "he heard a song that sounded like hello and goodbye"), and in John Hurt's charming performance, that reminds us of the importance of the human voice... even as we are seduced by the stunning visuals.
This is great stuff, some of the best old-school fantasy every produced for TV, and - despite the puppets and magic - in no way geared to kids. It's "general audience" in the original sense: everybody gathered together around the Storyteller's bewitching voice, different ages envisioning different things as the stories play out.
A word on the second batch, the Greek Myths: These are at a much lower wattage than the European stories, and I'm not sure why, as the stories themselves are great. But Michael Gambon's Storyteller lacks the charm of Hurt's, the scripts (not by Minghella) are more perfunctory, and perhaps the stories are too familiar to have much surprise. They are beautifully produced, and have some good performances (Derek Jacobi as Daedalus, Robert Stephens as Hades), but they aren't as essential as the earlier group. (But given the low price for the whole set, they're well worth owning, even if they lack the "repeatability factor" of the earlier batch.)
Yes, the video quality is pretty wobbly, and the extras are non-existant... but The Storyteller triumphs anyway!"
Good entertainment for the whole family.
Newton Ooi | Phoenix, Arizona United States | 09/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Jim Henson is one of the most respected and famous names in family entertainment. Creator or co-creator of such classics as the Muppets and Sesame Street, his company put together this string of TV shows in the late 1980s. Comprised of 13 tales; 4 from ancient Greece and 9 from medieval Europe; each is turned into a separate story of 20 - 30 minutes in length. Each tells one or more morals; and comprises elements of romance, comedy, tragedy, suspence and action. The four Greek stories are well known to anyone who stayed awake in their high school literature classes. The 9 European stories, on the other hand, are less well known. But all are told wonderfully, from the point of view of the storyteller, and his dog. The storyteller character is portrayed by Michael Gambon (Dumbeldorf in the Harry Potter movies) and John Hurt. The stories themselves have both human and muppet characters. A careful viewing reveals many actors and actresses who would go on to become famous; Colin Farrel, Sean Bean, Miranda Richardson, etc...
All the stories have good dialogue, no sex or nudity, no bad language, and enough action to satisfy teenagers but without scaring the kids. Great DVD set and I highly recommend it."
The best place by the fire was kept for...the Storyteller.,
H. Bala | Carson - hey, we have an IKEA store! - CA USA | 01/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1987 and 1988, JIM HENSON'S THE STORYTELLER aired and became an instant showpiece for television, a truimphant (but short-lived) series breathing fresh life into nine lesser-known northern European fairy tales and, later, into four timeless stories drawn from Greek mythology. These old folk and fairy tales, mined from countries such as Germany and Russia and compiled in 2 discs here, along with the Greek tales, are vigorously and appealingly narrated by two storytellers: John Hurt for the European fables and Michael Gambon for the Greek re-tellings. But, with much respect to Mr. Gambon, who himself does a fine job, it is John Hurt who decidedly draws my attention. Hurt, with the more eye-catching portrayal, is ideal as he inhabits his storytelling character with a gleeful and quirky charm and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
It doesn't hurt that the stories featuring Hurt as the host boast clever and sensitive screenplays written by Anthony Minghella, who, nearly a decade later, would win an Oscar for directing THE ENGLISH PATIENT. As such, JIM HENSON'S THE STORYTELLER gloriously lives up to its titular billing. John Hurt's performance sparkles with his enchanting delivery as, propelled by his captivating voice and effectively off-kilter mannerisms and abetted by heavy make-up, he evokes a rich verbal miasma which sucks the listener in to his stories. Minghella's screenplays are replete with rich, witty wordplay and evocative descriptives that indeed recall to mind the classic fairy tales with which we grew up. The kids, of course, won't have that frame of reference, but, still, watching these episodes, it really does feel as if you're sitting around the fire, enraptured at the feet of a master spinner of yarns.
Michael Gambon, on the other hand, is burdened with the weightier and grimmer Greek tales. Thus, he eschews John Hurt's light, ebullient touch, opting instead to display a more proper and somber persona. He's pretty good, mind you, but, in the final analysis, he ends up lacking a bit of something when compared to John Hurt. Both Hurt and Gambon, by the way, are accompanied by the same mangy talking dog (as operated by Brian Henson).
At a half hour per episode, JIM HENSON'S THE STORYTELLER is presented in a marriage of live acting, creative animatronics, and surreal and stylishly vivid imagery. Jim Henson and his crew do a marvelous job with the production values, coming up with excellent special effects (for its time), seamless puppetry, matte paintings, and yeoman make-up work, all to plant the viewer firmly in their fantasy setting. A charming quirk of the series, which adds a nice touch, is the interesting ways the folk tale would continue to make its presence felt during the occasional interludes with the Storyteller and his dog. The camera would cut away from the story and focus on our host by the fireplace, but, somewhere in the background, whether it's on a painting in the back or on the surface of a display jar or cup, images depicting the story are set in motion. Pretty neat.
The stories themselves are more mature and darker in essence than any kid's fable we're used to over here, especially the Greek entries, and several carry melancholy and bittersweet overtones ("The Soldier and Death," "The Heartless Giant"). But don't keep the kids from watching this series; everyone should get a chance to fall under the spell and feel the power of stories.
It does help that most of these tales are little known in the States, thereby giving the viewer a chance to enjoy the unfolding of a fresh story and be actually startled here and there. When was the last time CINDERELLA or BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, timeless as they are, offer up anything new? This is just about as perfect as television shows can get; the only flaw I can come up with lies in the dvd set as it comes with no special features whatsoever. ALL the episodes are superb, but if I had to pick the best of the pack, I would definitely go with "Hans My Hedgehog," "The Soldier and Death" and "The Three Ravens." With several recognizable name actors lending their talents to this series, JIM HENSON'S THE STORYTELLER: THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION truly is a MUST HAVE dvd set.
"Hans My Hedgehog" - From an early German folk tale: A barren peasant woman, desperately craving a child, naively says aloud that if she had a baby, she wouldn't care what it looks like. Soon enough, she gives birth to a baby who resembles a hedgehog, much to the father's dismay and the scorn of the villagers.
"Fearnot" - From an early German folk tale: A carefree, absent-minded boy who never scares goes on a strange journey to learn fear. Though still very good, this may be the weakest episode of the lot. Gabrielle Anwar has a tiny nonspeaking role.
"A Story Short" - From an early Celtic folk tale: The Storyteller himself is in the spotlight as he narrates the time he was caught making a fool of the royal cook and, as punishment meted out by the king, must tell one story a day for a year. All goes well until the very last day when the Storyteller suffers from storyteller's block. Brenda Blethyn has a part.
"The Luck Child" - From an early Russian folk tale: Seeking to avert a prophecy which foretells of a seventh son of a seventh son of someday supplanting the current king, the unscrupulous monarch seeks out this luck child and attempts to do away with him. But those blessed with luck cannot be undone...and the same could be said for prophecies.
The Soldier & Death" - From an early Russian folk tale, this is an awesome story. Because of kind acts towards three beggars, an honest soldier returning from war is given a magical sack, a deck of cards, and a nice whistle, which he uses to save a kingdom and to foil Death.
"The True Bride" - From an early German folk tale. Shades of Aslan! A white lion comes to the aid of a girl (Jane Horrocks, LITTLE VOICE) being held under the cruel care of a troll. Co-starring Sean Bean.
"The Three Ravens" - From an early German folk tale: A wicked witch (Miranda Richardson) weds a widowed king (Jonathan Pryce) and then, recognizing that the king's three sons and daughter pose a threat to her ambition, transforms the three sons into ravens. But the princess (Joely Richardson) escapes and is told by her brothers that, unless she remains speechless for three years, three months, and three days, they'll be trapped in their raven forms forever.
"Sapsorrow" - From an early German folk tale: This is a variant on Cinderella (or is it the other way around?) as a beautiful princess (the unimpressive Alison Doody), seeking to escape an arranged marriage, flees to a distant kingdom and disguises herself as a loathsome hag. But, then, she falls in love with the prince...Co-starring Jennifer Saunders.
"The Heartless Giant" - From an early German folk tale: On the whole, giants are benign creatures, harmless to none, unless, of course, the giant hasn't a heart. This story is about a curious prince who is fooled into freeing one such heartless giant from the king's dungeon...
The Greek myths:
"Daedalus and Icarus" - The inventor Daedalus and his son Icarus flee from the wicked King Minos with the aid of Daedalus's man-made wings, but will Icarus heed his father's advice? I'm guessing, not.
"Orpheus and Eurydice" - The musician Orpheus descends to Hades to bring back his dead wife.
"Perseus and the Gorgon" - The hero Perseus faces the Gorgon, Medusa.
"Theseus and the Minotaur" - It's Theseus, with some help from a beautiful princess, versus the savage Minotaur, half-man, half-bull. "
I. L. Hammond | Lismore, NSW Australia | 02/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Storyteller is done so well - the kids love it and watch it over and over again. My husband and I don't mind watching either as it's nice to get lost in a fantasy world. It's in the fantasy genre with the Harry Potters & Narnia, but the advantage is that they are short stories grabbing the kids attention- rather than watching a movie that goes for an hour and a half. The Storyteller Greek Myths is very informative, but to my kids is a little advanced, as there is more telling of the story rather than showing the story. With Greek names like Eurydice or Orpheus etc. make it complicated for them follow and to understand whats going on. The great thing though, it's here for when they are older."